To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, if he will convene a cross-departmental working group to address the implications of the reduction in the number of people achieving a further education qualification in British Sign Language between 2007 and 2014; if he has had discussions with (a) the Minister for Disabled People and (b) other Ministers about the adequacy of supply of sign language interpreters and other communication and language professionals who work with deaf and deafblind people; and if he will meet the charity and awarding body Signature to discuss those matters.
The majority of the Department’s £450m savings will be delivered through known underspends and releasing unallocated funding. Officials in my department are working with the appropriate funding bodies to determine how savings can best be achieved in line with ministers’ priorities. All spending decisions for 2016-17 and beyond will be taken as part of the Spending Review, the timetable for which is yet to be finalised.
On 12 March, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issued a statement setting out plans to work with deaf people and stakeholder groups to undertake a market review of British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation provision to explore long term improvements in the market. My officials are working with DWP counterparts to develop this work. We will await the outcomes of the review before deciding if a cross-departmental working group is the best way forward to consider what changes can be implemented.
I have not had the opportunity to discuss this with my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People, or other Ministers, but would expect to do so in due course. I would be pleased to meet with Signature to discuss this further once the findings from the market review are known.